Fresh from the FROG rally I had only been home 5 days, but managed to strip and clean the Airstream, catch up on home chores, and process 24 quarts of salsa with canning partner Cindy. With all that out of the way – it was time to camp again!
The weather has been, without question, the best we have had all summer, 70’s highs and 50’s lows, leading right into a very special camping trip! Our favorite Ohio State Park was hosting a car show and Tom entered the MG. Harrison Lake State Park is a mere 63 miles from our house, and after lunch Thursday I handled the camping rig while Tom led the way in the MG and Steve and Cindy Thomas followed. There were also plans to meet Airstream and Argosy buds Lou and Larry and Loren and Mike for this cruise-in weekend.
Our sites at Harrison Lake were covered by thick grass and shade was guaranteed all day by the tall trees surrounding our campsite.
The weather cooperated by cooling off enough to actually need an evening campfire for warmth, and by the time Lou and Larry joined us the weekend was off to a great start!
With no place we had to be or go on Friday morning, we started out with a monster breakfast with Steve cooking egg sandwiches on the grill, Lou and Larry providing a skillet of hash and a bowl of fresh fruit, and Tom flipping pancakes.
Lou is a seasoned kniter/crocheter and got Cindy, a newbie knitter, and me, a newbie crocheter started on projects. Lou was hoping to see progress on her camo-afghan for an Alaskan friend, Cindy was making a circular big-yarn chair cover, and I was working on a Viking hat with horns for Caleb.
Saturday morning at 7:45 Tom exited one end of the campground, entered another, registered the MG, and took his place in the field. The rest of the day was spent walking around admiring and photographing the cars. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
This is just a few of the cars that we saw as we made several passes around the field, visited the craft vendors, listened to the live entertainment and talked to other owners. Cars were on display from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 when awards were passed out. The top 35 cars (out of over 100) that received votes were awarded plaques, and then several other special show awards were given. It seemed to be a Ford Mustang and Chevy Belaire day with lots of awards going to these American made brands.
And while the little British MGB didn't win a trophy, she stood up very proudly to all the competition and garnered a lot of comments from participants that were awed with the fact that Tom had kept and was showing the very first car he had ever bought!
It would be hard to repeat such a great weekend with friends, family, meals, crafting, showing, relaxing and great weather -- but, give us a couple weeks and we'll try! Next on our agenda is East Harbor State Park where the tall ships will be parading past Put-In-Bay for a Labor Day celebration!
Friday was day 5 of the rally and the last full day before heading for home. A last-minute offer to the R-Podders was to install a keyless door entry for anyone that wanted – for a cost of only $85! (A vendor at the rally was offering installation of a similar product for $279, without labor!) Tink, and a number of other R-Podders, jumped on this offer and hung around the Village to oversee the process and get a lesson in use. I plotted out a few stores in the surrounding area that I wanted to visit and took a little shopping trip and came back with a few accessories that I needed!
I walked from where the Airstream was parked over to the R-Pod Village several times throughout the day to watch the steady progress of tear-down and put-away. Down came the R-Domes and all of the outdoor decorations, and up came the outdoor rugs. By evening it was mostly bare campers and packed up vehicles, ready to hitch up and take off in the morning.
A final meal of thick pork chops and BBQ beef brisket followed by an outdoor evening concert wrapped up the rally.
Tink and I headed back to Van Wert Saturday morning and arrived by noon. The only detail we had not counted on was that Tom was NOT going to be there to help us back those campers in the driveway! That’s OK – we got the job done all by ourselves!
Coming up -- Harrison Lake -- in 5 days!
Star is a comfortable hostess and let us poke around inside and out, taking picture after picture, while she finished preparing lunch. The kitchen is a picture window affair offering a view of every quadrant of the outside gardens.
Here are some pictures of the back yard.
A quick peek at the inside!
One more home visit while we were out and around: Fresh out of Medical school with wife and new baby daughter, my father opened his first doctor's practice in Goshen, IN and borrowed money to buy a home. With address in hand, Tom took Tink and I to scout out the house. A sweet little first home, it was easily recognizable and very similar to the pictures in the old photo album.
Back at the rally Forest River took a break from feeding the frogs, and a group of R-Podders went out to a local Goshen Diner. The South Side Soda Shop has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” with host Guy Fieri, and I am thinking that most of the rally attenders visited this landmark at least once during the week!
After dinner Tom hopped in the MG and headed back to Van Wert to continue his personal agenda – a trip to visit his mother in Bay City, Texas! That left me with one more solo day at the rally followed by the pack-up, hitch-up and caravan home. It has been the greatest rally week ever! Check back for a wrap-up!
By Wednesday we knew the morning routine – out of bed by 8:00 and breakfast by 8:30 and then form a plan for the day. (Check out previous posts for our first 3 days at the FROG rally.) Tom decided to take a factory tour to see the Surveyor Travel Trailer made from the outside in. This was just one of the many factory tours that was offered by Forest River throughout the week.
I messed around the fairgrounds and stopped to photograph the lovely gardens dedicated to County Home Extension Agents. As a 30-year Home Ec teacher, I worked closely with our local Ohio State Extension Agents and always appreciated their family oriented knowledge.
As with every building on the Fairgrounds property, the home-base for the Extension Agents was surrounded by beautiful landscaping and memorials to people working in the Home Economics profession.
When Tom returned from his tour I decided to take advantage of the wonderful fabric opportunities in the area to go ahead and buy a backing for the glamping quilt top pieces that I bought yesterday. I figured yardage and talked Tom into taking me back to the same quilt stores in Shipshewana. Today we discovered the bargain basement where the fabrics were up to 50% off and I walked out with the perfect fabric for my quilt theme. The salmon pink fabric repeats girl talk: eat less . . . chew more . . .talk less. . . say more . . .love more. . . white less . . .breath more.
We also made a quick dash into the “Rise ‘N Roll” Amish bakery where I bought my favorite Amish bread loaf and Tom bough several bags of the tiny, tender, purple, popping corn that he and Caleb favor.
Driving back to the Fairgrounds we caught up to and passed some awful rain that was moving in our direction. We just got back to the camper as the storm hit. We had planned to tour the many new Forest River trailers and motor-homes that were on display, but within minutes we heard the tornado warning sirens go off and we jumped in the car, grabbed Tink in the R-POD Village, and headed for the bathroom severe storm shelter. We found Tink standing out in the middle of the road with dozens of other people gawking at the sky, and snapping pictures with her phone!
Within 30 minutes the danger was out of the area and we returned back to the camper to get ready for supper: Port-A-Pit chicken, sliced ham, green bean casserole, broccoli salad, coleslaw, roasted potatoes, Amish roll and chocolate cake!
Tonight, our third night at the FROG, everyone seems to be tired and retreating for an early night; Tom and I are tucked in and comfortably reading and enjoying a quiet evening and anticipating tomorrow's visit with Cousin Star Kintner.
Monday was our first full FROG rally day, starting off with a big buffet breakfast: scrambled eggs, ham, sausage gravy on biscuits, mixed fruit, sweet rolls, coffee and juice. We had 6 more such breakfasts to look forward to in the coming week!
We were at the vendor building when it opened for browsing – lots of nice add-ons and upgrades all of which I resisted. I was mildly interested in the keyless door entry system, until learning that it would not mate with the curved door of the Airstream. That saved Tom $300!
Dinner tonight was on linens and china with candlelit centerpieces for over 700 people! We started with an assortment of Amish cheese and crackers, and at our tables were served Maryland Clam Chowder and a Baby Spring Mix Salad. The main dish was Bison Tenderloin Filets and Floridian Sunshine Shrimp accompanied by Sweet Potato Hash and Country Style Green Beans and Amish Brioche Dinner Rolls. Dessert was a little known recipe of South Carolina Tart!
One big event that started today was the Forest River “you bring it here and we’ll fix it” policy! No kidding – just bring your Forest River product to the rally with a list of what needs fixin’ and a crew will arrive at your campsite sometime during the day and take care of repairs. You might think that this is just for new camping units under factory warranty . . . . NOT! Any product, any size, any age, any repair.
Johanna got a new rear window installed, a new door for her refrigerator, a new outdoor step, and a dozen other little things taken care of. In the process they found some delamination on the outside of the trailer and are going to install new side walls. This is a major job, and they aren’t able to do it while she is here, but arrangements will be made to get the camper to the factory, replace the walls, and return it to her. NO COST! NO SHIT! Here are some pictures Tink took of the workers on the Tink R-Pod
We had pouring rain on Monday night! Our Airstream is sitting high and dry on a lush, grassy mound and the rain was not a problem. By 10:00 Tuesday morning the sun was out and all the FROGS came out to play! Breakfast at 8:00 was a repeat of yesterday’s Amish spread, with a few different offerings. My favorite was the baked French toast casserole.
Tonight we were own our own for dinner as Forest River was taking a night off from serving. However, the 22 campers of the R-Pod Village had that meal covered with a preplanned pot-luck, and the Dairy Bar with its beautiful covered pavilion with plenty of picnic tables and seats was chosen as the congregation area.
Travis and Carie, AKA Moose Pod, made an R-Pod Cake!
Johanna and I have a cousin, Star, who lives 10 miles away in Elkhart, and last year at this event we were able to link up with Star and her husband, David. This year Star was able to join us for the pot luck dinner and we had a nice opportunity to extend our chat from last year! As kids our brother/fathers had taken us on several extended camping trips together to Yellowstone and even California; 8 kids, 4 adults camping in the rough.
From dinner at the Dairy Bar many of us moved to Tink’s R-Pod where she cranked up her little red campfire – a propane affair that sits up off the ground and puts out a cheerful fire and a little bit of heat. Tom and I left by 9:45, but Tink said the party didn’t shut down until 11:30 that night!
Still needing more chat-time with Cousin Star, we made a date for Thursday lunch at the home she grew up in that we often visited as children. That is going to be a story all in itself, so check back later this week for a full report.
Saturday Rob and Trisha Ritchie and sister Tink joined us in Van Wert, OH, the jumping off place for our next big adventure. . . The FROG Rally. This is the second year in a row that I have accompanied Tink to the Forest River Owner’s Group rally, and if you read my blog a year ago, it was a real eye-opener on how the RV industry is supposed to treat their clients! – in a perfect camping world!
Rob, Trisha, and Tink were welcomed by the whole Brown family and settled into the driveway for an overnight campout. As we ate dinner we planned different venues for Sunday: Tom, Micah, and Caleb headed out to the Mid-Ohio race trace for a full day of Indy car racing, and Rob and Trisha, Tink and I drove to the FROG rally in Elkhart, IN at the county fairgrounds.
I can’t show you pictures of the boy’s racing trip, but I heard that it was a great time! As for the trip to the FROG, I have pictures and plenty of information about arrival and first-day doings.
Leaving Van Wert at 9:00 a.m. our caravan of two R-Pods with the Airstream leading the way arrived at Elkhart County Fairgrounds by 11:30. It was tricky business snapping this picture of the caravan, but I managed to get all three of us as we went around a corner! The R-Pods headed off to premier parking in their R-Pod Village, while I set up in a separate location of the fairgrounds. The Airstream is not a Forest River product, but I pay my fees for full rally participation under the umbrella of sister Tink!
Here is the Silvemine all set up in the grassy field beside the rabbit barn and behind the goat barn!
Note the lamp post that sister Tink made me for my birthday! Somebody in the R-Pod Nation designed this wonderful outdoor accent post, and many of the podders were sporting them down in R-Pod Village! Tink's special package deal to me included two stained-glass solar mini-posts and three little solar accent lights. My little campsite had a real glow come nighttime!
People not living in the mid-west do not realize what a big deal the County Fair is, and The Elkhart County is one of the best. Every building is immaculate and freshly painted and beautifully landscaped. During the off season, the fairgrounds is used as headquarters for meetings and rallies and all kinds of events. It has many open-air pavilions for group meetings and seminars as well as indoor facilities for meals and gatherings, and wonderful restrooms with shower houses!
The rally this year had 360 camping units: travel trailers, fifth wheels, motor homes, trailer hybrids, and pop-ups! R-Pods are the newest innovation of Forest River -- a very small light-weight camper with all the luxury amenities. This year 22 R-Pods were assigned their own R-Pod Village and Tink was named Mayor of the village. I, of course, had to make signs and buttons!
All afternoon R-Pods flowed into the fairgrounds and the village. By suppertime most had arrived, were set-up and showing off their R-Pod/FROG spirit FROG decorations and other outdoor fancies.
Dinner was a classic Forrest River catered event: roasted shaved beef, smashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, salad, rolls . . . I had to beg the server NOT to put so much meat on my plate! After dinner, Bob, the Forrest River Owner’s Group chief FROG, offered welcome and orientation announcements to guide us through the next 5 days.
In true village form R-Podders were out and around after dinner, mixing and mingling. A few stragglers arrived and were heartily welcomed and assisted. One solo lady was only on her third camping trip ever and was tickled to have all the attention and personal coaching on her electric, water, and sewer set-up.
The sun went down, and by 10:00 most were ready to end the day and to be thinking ahead to plot tomorrow’s itinerary. We've still got four full days of FROG giggin' so stop by later this week to catch up!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown